2 months ago
I guess this isn’t that surprising, but as the big legal fight heated up this week between Apple and the Justice Department over whether or not Apple can be forced to create a backdoor to let the FBI access the contents of Syed Farook’s iPhone, all of the major Presidential candidates have weighed in… and they’re all wrong. Donald Trump is getting the most attention. Starting earlier this week he kept saying that Apple should just do what the FBI wants, and then he kicked it up a notch this afternoon saying that everyone should boycott Apple until it gives in to the FBI. Apparently, Trump doesn’t even have the first clue about the actual issue at stake, in terms of what a court can compel a company to do, and what it means for our overall security.
This isn’t another Trump-bashing post. I’ve had my share, and it’s so easy. But in this case, every other presidential candidate – every other presidential candidate – is close to being as bad on the issue, and lacks even a basic clue as to what’s at stake.
There is also misunderstanding within the field who purports to comprehend the technology of the issue. This post at Zero Hedge is an example.
On the surface, this appears like valiant attempt by the CEO of the world’s most valuable company to stand up against the Big Brother state made so famous in the aftermath of the Edward Snowden revelations.
However, a quick peek beneath the surface reveals something far less noble and makes Tim Cook seem like you average, if very cunning, smartphone salesman.
According to the The Daily Beast’s Shane Harris, in a similar case in New York last year, Apple acknowledged that it could extract such data if it wanted to. But the real shocker is that according to prosecutors in that case, Apple has unlocked phones for authorities at least 70 times since 2008. (Apple doesn’t dispute this figure.)
As Harris observantly adds, “in other words, Apple’s stance in the San Bernardino case may not be quite the principled defense that Cook claims it is.”
To this, my oldest son Josh sends the following.
He doesn’t understand the subject matter. He’s in over his head and backing in to a predisposition.
Apple was unlocking phones years ago, when security feature such as system-wide encryption hadn’t been implemented. It was a different kind of “unlocking.” This isn’t a fight over keys to a single device. This is a fight over encryption, which the government doesn’t want any of us to have, because the government is run by political science and history majors.
Of note is the fact that any device from the 4th generation forward (beginning with 5s) is impossible – IMPOSSIBLE – to decrypt without the actual key, because Apple has moved encryption duties to a separate System On A Chip (SoC) that runs its own OS, is married to the device by UUID, and totally inaccessible.
The phone the FBI is freaking out over is a 5c, not a 5s.
The FBI doesn’t need the phone. They have what they need already. This is about encryption. The government needs an event they can point to and blame for encryption, and they’ve chosen this one.
This is the politics of control and power. To categorize it as a publicity stunt is disingenuous to the point of being dangerous.
Note that we’ve discussed here and here the weaknesses in random number generators and the ability to hone in on keys, but Apple has a feature that cuts the entire system off and erases data if this approach is tried beyond just a few random numbers.
Concerning this report, Josh also send the following.
The phone was in the possession of the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health in the hours after the attack. An idiot IT worker with the department performed a remote reset of the iCloud account attached to the device.
This disabled an assortment of services and functions on the phone, including automatic backups to iCloud, which the FBI seems to think would have been helpful, even though they’re also encrypted.
Bottom line. The fedgov has not asked for Apple to break into this phone. They have asked Apple to develop an approach that allows them to completely bypass all security, thus making them malleable to a FISA court ruling for any or all phones in the future.
All of your worst suspicions are true. This is the government at its most totalitarian.